EU could achieve Covid-19 immunity by mid-July, says vaccine chief
The EU's population of 450 million could achieve Covid-19 herd immunity by mid-July, the EU's vaccine chief Thierry Breton told French newspaper Le Parisien.
Breton, the EU commissioner in charge of the vaccine task force, had already suggested at the end of March that herd immunity would be possible in the EU by July 14th, as incoming jabs are expected to speed up the continent's sluggish vaccine rollout.
On Monday, he confirmed his prediction to Le Parisien: "We now have good visibility of what is happening, from the production of vaccines to the distribution and tests," he said.
"Fourteen million doses were delivered to the EU in January, 28 million in February and 60 million in March. For the next quarter, we will increase to 100 million in April, May and June. Then 120 million in the summer, and we will reach a rate of 200 million from September," he said.
In the second half of the year as a whole, the EU will have received over 800 million doses, according to Breton.
The note of optimism came after several European countries have reimposed restrictions in an attempt to halt soaring Covid case numbers, and the World Health Organisation slammed Europe's vaccine rollout as "unacceptably slow" on Thursday, saying that it was prolonging the pandemic.
"Vaccines present our best way out of the pandemic...However, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow," WHO director for Europe Hans Kluge said in a statement.
So far, only about 10 percent of the region's total population have received one vaccine dose, and four percent have completed a full vaccine series, the organisation said.
The WHO's European region comprises 53 countries and territories and includes Russia and several Central Asian nations.
But when it comes to the EU's slow vaccine rollout, Breton blamed the AstraZeneca laboratory.
"If we had received 100 percent of the AstraZeneca vaccines we were contractually owed, today the EU would be at the same level as the UK in terms of vaccination," he said. "I can confirm that this hole is due entirely to AstraZeneca's delivery failures."
On Monday, Johnson & Johnson said it would start delivering its single-shot Covid vaccine to Europe on April 19th, giving the continent a boost in its vaccination drive.
The EU has signed a firm order for 200 million J&J doses and an option for 200 million more.